Allie Rice is deputy director of Deaf Community Services of San Diego and co-chair of the annual San Diego DEAFestival at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation on Oct. 12

The annual San Diego DEAFestival is an opportunity for members of both the Deaf and hearing communities to connect and celebrate different sign languages and elements of deaf culture and history. As co-chair of the festival, Allie Rice has seen firsthand how the event fosters even more excitement and connection within her community.

“I was born profoundly deaf and my family is hearing and they communicate through American Sign Language (ASL),” she says. The first time she attended the festival, she was a co-chair and although it didn’t officially begin until 10 a.m. that day, people were arriving an hour earlier. “I witnessed the eagerness and excitement of these people and was moved by the energy that filled the air, embodying an inspiring example of solidarity and community spirit. By the time 10 a.m. came around, the event represented the true meaning of community.”

Rice, 39, lives in Mission Valley and has spent much of her career in community service, nonprofit and advocacy work. She’s the deputy director of Deaf Community Services of San Diego, the organization hosting the festival, which is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation. She took some time to talk about her advocacy work, the festival, and her love of video games.

Q: Tell us about the upcoming San Diego DEAFestival 2019.

A: San Diego DEAFestival is an annual community event that recognizes and celebrates sign languages, including American Sign Language (ASL), deaf culture and history, and the Deaf community. It first started in the 1980s as Deaf Awareness Day (DAD), then the name of the event evolved to Unity Day in 2014. Three years later, in 2017, the name changed, again, to San Diego DEAFestival.

The event includes exhibit booths, children’s activities, outdoor activities such as games and inflatables, and talented performers and artists featuring a variety of entertainment such as ASL storytelling, poetry and dancing. The event is planned and coordinated by a committee of several Deaf Community Services (of San Diego) employees and community members. San Diego DEAFestival continues to be one of the largest community events coordinated by DCS.

Q: Why was this something you wanted to do and be involved in?

A: Community events play a very central and unique role within the Deaf community, as well as the larger community in San Diego. The interaction between individuals from all parts of the cultural mosaic is powerful and incredible. At San Diego DEAFestival, it creates space — mainly, a sense of belonging — for deaf and hard of hearing individuals and hearing individuals to share stories and ideas through ASL.

Q: Why have you continued to be involved with DCS?

A: I began volunteering at a young age (Girl Scouts, anyone!?) and it is an amazing way to make connections and serve others. Being a volunteer in different capacities led me to become involved in the nonprofit sector, specifically in doing advocacy work.